Question: "What does the Bible say about interdependence?"
Answer: Interdependence is the state of being dependent upon someone else. An interdependent relationship one in which two or more people rely on each other to help fulfill needs, whether they be physical, emotional, or spiritual. While the Bible doesn’t use the term interdependence, it does have a lot to say on the concept.
From the very beginning, humans were created for relationship and interdependence. The first man, Adam, had a close relationship with God, but he did not have a companion who was like him. “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’” (Genesis 2:18). So God put Adam to sleep, took a rib out of his body, and formed a woman from the rib (Genesis 2:21–22). He presented the woman to Adam as his lifelong companion, the one to share Adam’s dominion over creation and with whom Adam could fulfill God’s plan for reproduction (Genesis 1:26–28). With these first two people, God set the pattern of interdependence for all future mankind.
As people began to fill the earth, societies were formed and the concept of human interdependence played out in these larger groups. Within a society, people relied on one other to function: individuals took on different roles to help provide for the needs of the whole. Some produced food, raised animals, built dwellings, cared for children, and so on. In Old Testament times, God’s chosen people, the Israelites, lived in a close-knit society comprised of twelve tribes descended from the twelve sons of Jacob (Exodus 1:1–7). When the Lord liberated His people from slavery in Egypt, the tribes traveled together, living and working as one large group. They took possession of the land God had promised them, and, even though they eventually became more and more spread out, the individual tribes continued to function interdependently through trade, ruling kings, shared land, etc. As time progressed and society continued to evolve, interdependency still formed the basis for any people group, and this has continued today.
Not only is interdependence foundational to societal living, it is also God’s intention for all Christians. After Jesus ascended to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to believers. The indwelling Spirit bestows gifts on each believer so that the body of Christ will forever function as an interdependent unit. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. . . . You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:7, 27). The Holy Spirit distributes spiritual gifts as He sees fit to equip members of the Church to serve each other (verse 11). No gift is more important than another, as they all play a role within the Body of Christ.
As the early church grew, the believers formed a close-knit, interdependent group: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:42–46). Today, the Church is too large and spread out to function exactly in this way, but God still commands us to function as one Body (1 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 4:4) through the application of spiritual gifts (Romans 12:4–8; Ephesians 4:16), Christian living (Romans 12:10–21; Ephesians 4:17–32), and assembling and worshiping together (Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 10:25).